WWII Film Review – Attack on Leningrad (2009)

The 2009 film Attack on Leningrad was one I had to have. Being interested in the eastern front of WWII, or in Russian parlance, the Great Patriotic War, I was curious if this film would be glorification or history, or more likely, a mix of the two.

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This film is worth watching as a war-movie fan and has the production value to be a top-tier film, but suffers from some minor flaws. The main character has some post-1960s ideology forced upon the characters, especially feminist empowerment myths. This blog is far from politically correct and will point out all rearings of the ugly head of radical feminism. In film making, that ugliness is rampant.

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Ironically, the main character struggles with her traditional womanhood. She tries to be the good, sexually-liberated Soviet political police officer and combat vet, but several challenges through the film draw out her natural and undeniable feminine identity. Prodded along by the western female reporter that she saves, by her neighbor’s plight, and by various other dramatic tensions, the irony is that nothing can kill off the gender roles so ingrained in human genetics. These tensions do add realism, interest and depth to the otherwise stereotypical female Soviet fighter.

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The plot takes a few interesting twists and you do get invested in the characters despite some weak acting sprinkled throughout. Certain actors seem a bit amateur, especially supporting roles, and sometimes its awkwardly noticeable.

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The opening combat scenes are very well executed and the feeling of grit and gumption, risk and danger are captured well. The hopelessness and terrible hunger of a siege are communicated very well through the middle and ends of the film, and it is perhaps one of the best historical depictions of such a grueling winter trial. It gets pretty bleak. Because of the nature of the siege and grinding down of the city, the story necessarily slows down too.

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Technically speaking, the film-making is good and production value is top-notch enough to not be noticed. Props are typical for post-war films: German tanks are faked out of T-34 variants, but quite convincing. WWII-era Focke-Wulfs are played by painted up late-model Yak trainers, but that is expected and all films get a pass. After all, its not every day you get to rent a Tiger tank or budget for a squadron of FW-190s. CG aircraft are well-executed and combat segments fit the film well.

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Overall, I was tempted to say that the film might come across as a chick-flick with enough combat thrown in for the men. That might be a bit harsh. Reflecting on the overall story Its a worthy film with depth of characters. It starts off with a bang and settles into a dramatic story set in a war-torn city being starved by the Germans. Its unusual to me that this film, like the similar film about Sevastopol, seems to employ the same sort of character building device that sets the main character (a hard-edged female fighter) along side a western character who draws out that woman’s feminine heart. It is a clear demonstration of the deficiency of obsolete Marxist gender doctrine and an indictment of pressing women into traditional male combat roles. That is, of course, a decidedly politically incorrect sentiment in the feminized west, but it is frequently a strong theme in many Russian war films. They’ve tried it, seen its failure, and moved on.

A good film, I’d give it a B+

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